A recently-published report, funded by the Disability Research on Independent Living & Learning program and supervised by The Alliance for Inclusive Education, raised concerns about the failure of schools to enact Accessibility Plans, and thereby to support the equality of access for disabled pupils in UK.
Editor notes: What are Accessibility Plans?
According to nidirect.gov.uk, every school must have a school accessibility plan, which shows how they plan to improve accessibility for special educational needs pupils and when these improvements will be made. To prepare the plan a school must first commission an Access Audit. The plan must be published and you can ask to see it. It will outline how the school will: improve the physical environment, make improvements in the provision of information, increase access to the curriculum.
For more information regarding Accessibility Plans click here.
The report identified that schools have failed to fulfil their legal duties regarding Accessibility Plans for disabled pupils. This, among other shortcomings, amounts to illegal discrimination, which has negatively impacted the lives of disabled children and their families.
One of the researchers, Dr. Armineh Soorenian, urged schools to involve parents in the process of developing and reviewing Accessibility Plans and to widely promote them on their websites.
The report stressed the need for strong national guidelines on Accessibility Plans and highlighted that local authorities are failing to monitor their development and implementation in real life. Moreover, the report pointed out important facts about the cruel reality that many disabled pupils face. Physical barriers and discriminatory attitudes and practices in school are prohibiting them to realize their full potential. As well, disabled pupils are denied to fully take part in all school activities, including school trips or PE lessons.
Parents, likewise as children, are facing discrimination and social pressure. Parents mentioned problems regarding access, learning, social inclusion, and the behavior of education professionals towards their children. Moreover, the report states that only a few parents were aware that Accessibility Plans exist, and hence, none of them had used the tools the plan offers to challenge physical barriers or discriminatory practices.
An important detail to highlight is that the study found that parents more and more often choose special schools or home-schooling out of fear for their children's well-being in other schools. The percentage of pupils with special educational needs or a disability in ordinary schools has fallen by 24% since 2012. Meanwhile, the number of pupils registered in special schools has risen by nearly one-third.